The annual July fund-raising campaign – Week One

This week I celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of this website. In late June 2010 I put up my first posts, including two that will sound very familiar to my readers today:

The second took to task the Obama policy that declared “As established in international law, there shall be no national claims of sovereignty over outer space or any celestial bodies. The United States considers the space systems of all nations to have the rights of passage through, and conduct of operations in, space without interference.” My reaction: “In other words, no planetary body, no surface land, can be owned by anyone. Sounds like communism to me. It also sounds amazingly naive and childish.”

To celebrate this anniversary, and to pay my bills, each July I run a month-long fund-raising campaign. I hate begging for money, but if I don’t ask for your financial support I simply won’t be able to do this work any longer.

Please consider donating or subscribing, using the tip jar found either in the right column or at the bottom of the page, depending on whether you are reading this on a smart phone or a desktop/laptop. You can contribute one of four ways:

  • Send me a check. With this method every dime you contribute goes to me.
  • Send me money through Zelle. This method also charges no fees. Every dime you spend goes only to me.
  • Subscribe or donate through Paypal, which takes a cut of about 12%.
  • Subscribe or donate through Patreon, which also takes a cut of about 12%.

I also encourage my regular subscribers on both Paypal and Patreon to consider switching to Zelle. Several subscribers have done so, and have found the process simple and easy. It also makes your subscription far more effective.

This post will remain at the top of the page for the next month. Scroll down for new posts and updates.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Glacial features in a Mars crater at 29 degrees south latitude?

Glacial features in Mars crater
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on January 2, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Simply labeled “slope features,” it was likely taken to monitor the gullies and streaks on the interior walls of this 4-mile-wide crater. Scientists have been using MRO to track the coming and going of frost on this crater’s interior walls since 2016.

Equally intriguing however are what appear to be squashed layers within the crater’s interior. These appear to be some form of glacial feature created by repeated climate cycles, similar to the glacial features routinely seen throughout the 30 to 60 degree mid-latitude strips north and south.

What makes the glacial features in this particular crater particularly intriguing is its location, as shown in the overview map below.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Amazon employees demand company blackball everyone who disagrees with them

The apparent goal of Amazon's woke employees
The apparent goal of Amazon’s woke employees

Persecution is now cool! Hundreds of Amazon employees have apparently signed a company-wide open letter demanding that the company immediately blacklist everyone who is anti-abortion while also blackballing every state that passes anti-abortion laws.

“As part of Amazon’s wide-reaching efforts toward a more inclusive and diverse workforce, we believe that Amazon cannot let this recent decision go unanswered,” the letter said. “We ask Amazon, the world’s best employer, to actively defend against this assault on our liberty.”

Among other actions, the authors are requesting that Amazon “allow employees of all genders the space and time to grieve, express their frustrations, and protest against this assault on our rights.” In addition, they want the company to “donate and match donations to bail funds” to help “women and pregnant people” seeking abortions in states with protections for pre-born babies.

It also demanded Amazon organize pro-abortion protests and donate money to the political organizations the letter signatories endorse.

Essentially, the letter calls for Amazon to focus its business entirely on leftwing political action rather than its central purpose of providing retail products to its customers. That such actions will cost the company money and possibly harm its profit line apparently does not matter to these employees.

The letter however went much farther. The cropped image from the letter below shows this:
» Read more

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

The utter failure and total evil of government policies during the Wuhan panic

COVID mortality rates among children 10-14 in the UK
COVID mortality rates among children 10-14 in the United Kingdom,
comparing those who got the COVID shots versus those who did not

While stories about the ineffective and harmful consequences of the panic over the Wuhan flu continue to pour in on an almost daily basis, it is often better to step back and see these many stories in aggregate. By looking at the forest from a distance, a clearer picture frequently reveals itself that remains hidden if you only focus on studying the individual trees.

For example, the graph to the right, first published in January 2022, suggests strongly that giving young children the COVID shots only increased their mortality. This is just one story, however. Is it typical, or an outlier? You need to look at the larger picture to know.

Below I list and categorize the many science papers and news stories I have been collecting since my previous detailed two essays in May about the epidemic and its consequences (see: “The evidence keeps pouring in showing the utter failure of all COVID mandates” and “Are the COVID vaccines killing people over time? The data suggests yes.”). The totality of this data does appear shocking, especially because it makes evident the utter failure of almost every policy set by almost every government health official and elected politician since the Wuhan flu arrived in 2020.

First we must take another look at the new research about the mask mandates, policies that decades of research repeatedly showed would do nothing to protect anyone from COVID, and might even be unhealthy.
» Read more

Mirror comparable to Hubble’s ready for JPL balloon astronomy mission

engineers attach panels to the mirror's support structure.
Engineers attach mirror panels to the mirror’s support structure.

An Italian optics company, Media Lario, has now completed construction of the primary mirror — at 2.5 meters width slightly larger than Hubble’s primary mirror — to be used on a JPL balloon astronomy mission dubbed ASTHROS, targeting a December 2023 launch.

The ASTHROS primary mirror features nine panels, which are significantly easier to fabricate than a one-piece mirror. The bulk of the mirror panels consist of lightweight aluminum, formed into a honeycomb structure that reduces its total mass. The panel surfaces are made of nickel and coated with gold, which improves the mirror’s reflectivity at far-infrared wavelengths.

Once launched, the balloon will circle the south pole for up to four weeks, taking data on the gas distribution in several galaxies.

While that data will be worthwhile, the mission’s real goal is to test these technologies for future space-based astronomy missions. If this mission works, it will reduce significantly the cost and time necessary to make big telescope mirrors, while enhancing the robotic capabilities of such telescopes.

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 6 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. After I sell one more, I will be raising the price substantially. Thus, if you want to get an autographed copy of this rare collector's item for only $100, plus $5 shipping, now is the time to buy. Once I sell one more book and only have five copies left, the price goes up to $150 (plus shipping for the next two.


To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $105 check (which includes $5 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!


Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.


If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Astronomers: A supermassive black hole rotates far slower than expected

Quasar as seen across multiple wavelengths
Click for full image.

The uncertainty of science: Using Chandra astronomers have measured the rotation of a supermassive black hole in a distant quasar about 3.4 billion light years away and found that it spins at about half the speed of other less massive black holes.

Because a spinning black hole drags space around with it and allows matter to orbit closer to it than is possible for a non-spinning one, the X-ray data can show how fast the black hole is spinning. The spectrum — that is, the amount of energy as a function wavelength — of H1821+643 indicates that the black hole is rotating at a modest rate compared to other, less massive ones that spin close to the speed of light. This is the most accurate spin measurement for such a massive black hole.

The black hole, thought to weigh between 3 to 30 billion times more than the Sun and is the heaviest such object measured in this way, rotates at about half the speed of light. Why that rotation is less than other smaller black holes remains a question not yet answered, though astronomers suspect it is related to its formation history.

The image above is a composite showing this quasar across multiply wavelengths. X-rays are shown in blue, radio in red, and optical in white.

Rocket Lab’s Photon upper stage completes 3rd of 7 engine firings to get CAPSTONE to Moon

Rocket Lab’s Photon upper stage has now successfully completed the third of seven planned engine burns designed to slowly raise the Earth orbit of NASA’s experimental lunar cubesat CAPSTONE so that it can eventually be sent towards the Moon.

Lunar Photon’s HyperCurie engine will perform a series of orbit raising maneuvers by igniting periodically to increase Photon’s velocity, stretching its orbit into a prominent ellipse around Earth. Six days after launch, HyperCurie will ignite one final time, accelerating Photon Lunar to 24,500 mph (39,500 km/h) and setting it on a ballistic lunar transfer. Within 20 minutes of this final burn, Photon will release CAPSTONE into space for the first leg of the CubeSat’s solo flight. CAPSTONE’s journey to NRHO is expected to take around four months from this point. Assisted by the Sun’s gravity, CAPSTONE will reach a distance of 963,000 miles from Earth – more than three times the distance between Earth and the Moon – before being pulled back towards the Earth-Moon system.

Once in lunar orbit, CAPSTONE will be used to both test operations in that orbit (similar to the one NASA’s Lunar Gateway space station will use) while also demonstrating the use of a cubesat on an interplanetary mission.

Amazon to FCC: Consider limiting SpaceX’s Starlink constellation for our benefit

In a letter sent to the FCC last week, Amazon asked the agency to limit the size of SpaceX’s full constellation so that Amazon will be free to someday launch its own Kuiper constellation.

In the recent letter, Amazon recommends the FCC license a “subset of SpaceX’s proposed system” (as opposed to the whole fleet) to give the agency additional time to consider the “novel challenges” such a significant expansion might present. For example, Amazon believes hundreds to “more than 10,000” of SpaceX’s new satellites could be operating in the altitudes already approved for its Kuiper satellites, which could cause interference in the spectrum and “orbital overlap.” The company claims SpaceX has refused its requests for communication around these concerns as it has urged the FCC to approve its application. It also cites eight other satellite operations who have objected to the plan, including Dish Network, which is currently engaged in a public battle over radio frequencies with SpaceX.

Amazon’s concerns might carry more weight if the launch of its constellation was not so delayed. Both Amazon and SpaceX began development of their satellite constellations at about the same time. Yet, while SpaceX has already launched almost 3,000 satellites, and is providing its service to several hundred thousand customers, Amazon has yet to launch a single satellite.

Thus, though what Amazon is asking the FCC seems reasonable, it is also asking the FCC to block a competitor’s successful operation while it dilly-dallies along, accomplishing little.

This pattern from Amazon fits the pattern of all of Jeff Bezos’s space-related projects: Big promises, little action, and when competitors get things done sue or demand the government play favorites. Sure does not seem to me to be a good long-term business plan.

India’s PSLV rocket completes launch, putting nine satellites into orbit

India’s PSLV rocket successfully placed nine satellites into orbit today, completing that country’s second launch in 2022.

Since the Wuhan panic arrived in 2020, India’s space program has slowed to a crawl. Beforehand, it had been averaging six launches per year with the expectation that in 2020 it might double that number. Furthermore, the PSLV rocket had been a major player in the emerging smallsat market, routinely putting one to three dozen smallsats into orbit with each launch, with one launch in 2017 putting a record 104 smallsats into orbit.

Then the Wuhan panic arrived and everything stopped. Today’s PSLV launch was only its fifth launch since 2019. With almost all launches canceled, India’s smallsat business moved to SpaceX, Rocket Lab, and other rocket companies that did not panic and continued to launch.

Today’s launch however might signal a renewal. It was not managed by India’s old space agency, ISRO, but a new government agency called NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), which is supposedly focused on encouraging the growth of India’s commercial aerospace sector, independent of the government. Whether a government agency can accomplish such a task in India remains entirely unknown.

The leader board in the 2022 launch race remains the same:

27 SpaceX
21 China
8 Russia
4 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 37 to 21 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 37 to 34.

A ULA Atlas-5 launch later today could change these numbers.

SpaceX launches SES communications satellite

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully launched a SES communications satellite, using its Falcon 9 rocket.

The first stage, making its second flight, successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic. As of this writing, the satellite itself has not yet been deployed.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

27 SpaceX
21 China
8 Russia
4 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads China 37 to 21 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 37 to 34.

Today’s blacklisted American: Lincoln bust and Gettysburg Address plaque removed from Cornell library because “someone complained”

Banned by Cornell

Our modern dark age: Apparently because some unidentified individual “complained” about the presence of a bust of Abraham Lincoln and a bronzed plaque of his Gettysburg address, officials running the library at Cornell University immediately removed both.

“Someone complained, and it was gone,” Cornell professor Randy Wayne told the College Fix, referring to a Gettysburg Address plaque and Lincoln bust that had been on display in the Ivy League university’s Kroch Library since 2013. The professor said that he had noticed that the items were gone after stopping by the library several weeks ago, adding that when he asked the librarians about it, they were unable to give any details, other than saying it was removed as a result of some type of complaint.

The plaque and bust have been replaced with, “Well, nothing,” Wayne told the College Fix.

According to professor Wayne, when he asked the librarians why the bust and plaque were gone “they had no details to provide, except to say it was removed after some sort of complaint.”
» Read more

The lava tubes on the western slopes of Alba Mons as potential Martian colonies

Lava tubes on western flank of Alba Mons
Click for full figure.

In a new paper detailing work they first began in 2019, scientists have now carefully mapped the extensive lava tubes that appear to radially descend westward from the caldera of Alba Mons, the volcano on Mars that has the largest surface area but with a relatively low peak.

The mapped population of 331 lava tube systems has a mean length of 36.2 km, with a total length in the western flank geologic map quadrangle of ∼12,000 km. Individual lava tube systems extend up to ∼400 km, and it is likely that some of our mapped lava tubes are connected such that the total number is actually smaller and lengths (average and maximum) longer.

The map above, figure 10 of their paper, shows volcanic ridges as yellow, collapsed lava tube segments as red, and collapsed lava tube on the volcanic ridge as maroon. The wider map below, shows where this region is located, and gives the larger context.
» Read more

Sierra Space signs partnership deal with Turkey

Sierra Space and ESEN (another affiliated company of Sierra Space’s mother company Sierra Nevada) have signed a partnership agreement with the Turkish Space Agency to work together over the next five years in developing Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spacecraft and its LIFE orbital space station.

Though the agreement mentions how the three will work together to develop both Dream Chaser and LIFE, because of State department security regulations Sierra Space must be very careful about what technology it reveals to Turkey. I therefore expect the heart of the agreement are these two bullet points from the press release:

  • Space environment utilization on-orbit in LEO, including use of Sierra Space’s Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) space habitat module
  • Sending payloads to low Earth orbit (LEO) and the moon

Turkey wants to launch its own planetary probes as well as astronauts in order to compete with its Middle East neighbor the UAE. It has thus decided to pay Sierra Space to help it do that. The company can use the cargo Dream Chaser to lift smallsat payloads into orbit, and later use the manned version to lift Turkish astronauts to the LIFE station.

Axiom leases former Fry’s retail building housing fullscale mock-up of ISS

Capitalism in space: The private commercial space station company Axiom has leased a former Fry’s retail building that also happens to house the only fullscale mock-up of ISS anywhere.

Axiom Space, which has a contract with NASA to test components of its planned Axiom Station at the International Space Station, has leased the former location of Fry’s Electronics in Webster, Texas to house its engineering operations. The former big-box retail store, which closed when the national chain went out of business in 2021, is unique for its football-field-long representation of the ISS.

…Contained within a building that itself was shaped to resemble oversized space station modules, the former Fry’s ISS includes most of the real complex’s major components. The mockup features the U.S. Destiny laboratory, Quest airlock and Cupola; Russia’s Zvezda service module and Zarya functional cargo block (FGB); Japan’s Kibo laboratory; and the European Space Agency Columbus module.

The space station installation also has a replica of the Canadarm2 robotic arm, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, two models of NASA’s never-realized X-38 emergency crew return vehicle and astronauts (mannequins) in replica spacesuits. Additional oversized modules previously served as product demonstration rooms and an in-store cafe, while most of the station sat among and above aisles of computers and other devices.

Most of the mock-up hangs overhead, out of the way. In reconfiguring the building for its own use, Axiom intends to leave these mock-up units untouched. Engineers will do design work and module development of Axiom’s own station below.

Axiom’s occupation of this building is only temporary. Once its larger facility is completed in the next few years in the industrial park dubbed Houston Spaceport it will shift all operations there.

Scientists want your help cataloging the clouds on Mars

In order to fully identify all the clouds seen in the sixteen years of data collected by the cloud instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), scientists have now organized a citizen-scientist project to catalogue those clouds.

The project revolves around a 16-year record of data from the agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been studying the Red Planet since 2006. The spacecraft’s Mars Climate Sounder instrument studies the atmosphere in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. In measurements taken by the instrument as MRO orbits Mars, clouds appear as arches. The team needs help sifting through that data on Zooniverse, marking the arches so that the scientists can more efficiently study where in the atmosphere they occur.

You can join up by going here.

SpaceX preps for final engine tests before first orbital Starship/Superheavy flight

Capitalism in space: Having moved its 7th prototype Superheavy booster to the launch pad in Boca Chica even as its installs the six Raptor engines on the 24th prototype of Starship, SpaceX is now about to begin the final engines tests prior to the first orbital Starship/Superheavy flight.

For the first time the chopstick arms on the launch tower were used to lift and place the Superheavy booster onto the pad. It is expected that static fire tests of its 33 Raptor engines could begin within the next few weeks.

The orbital Starship meanwhile is still in the assembly building, where engineers are installing its own six Raptor engines.

Though SpaceX has not made public the exact schedule of tests leading to launch, it is expected that the company will do a short static fire test program with Superheavy alone, and then do a follow-up short series of tests once the Starship prototype is stacked on top. Based on past history, if the tests show no problems SpaceX will quickly move to launch. Though there have been indications that it is targeting July, it would not be surprising if that date slips to August.

The race between Starship and SLS for which will get into orbit first appears to be tightening.

Lainey Wilson – Things A Man Oughta Know

An evening pause: Unlike yesterday’s song, this song should be the anthem for today’s generation, especially the men. The chorus:

How to know when it’s love
How to stay when it’s tough
How to know you’re messing up a good thing
And how to fix it fore it’s too late
And yea I know a boy
Who gave up and got it wrong
If you really love a woman you don’t let her go
Yeah I know few things a man oughta know

Hat tip Dan Morris.

Science! Psychology researchers discover that kids make friends with those who sit next to them in school

Your tax dollars at work! Psychology researchers at Florida Atlantic University have found to their shock that the friendships school children form are strongly influenced by their seat assignments in class.

Results of the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, revealed that friendships reflect classroom seat assignments. Students sitting next to or nearby one another were more likely to be friends with one another than students seated elsewhere in the classroom. Moreover, longitudinal analyses showed that classroom seating proximity was associated with the formation of new friendships. After seat assignments changed, students were more likely to become friends with newly near-seated classmates than with those who remained or became seated farther away.

You can read the actual paper here. The research itself was apparently funded by a grant from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), apparently an agency within NIH, that stellar agency that pushed masks, lockdowns, and social distancing during the past two years based on zero data and contrary to research results going back decades.

It seems to me that this result would be obvious to any first grade teacher who is focused on teaching kids. It is also obvious to anyone who ever went to school and made friends there. To spend money on such research is utterly idiotic. Worse, it diverts funds from research that is considerably more important.

But no matter. What is really important is to get funding, no matter how trivial or useless the research. And our corrupt and bankrupt federal bureaucracy is most willing to oblige.

Pushback: Students win major settlement with college for denying them their free speech rights

Chike Uzuegbunam: winner against college censorship
Chike Uzuegbunam: A winner against college censorship

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Because the Supreme Court had ruled 8-1 in March 2021 that Georgia Gwinnett College and its officials could be held liable for damages for illegally denying several religious students their first amendment rights, the university last week finally settled the five-year-long case in favor of those students, paying nominal damages and attorneys’ fees totaling more than $800,000.

The case began when the university in 2016 twice prevented two students, Chike Uzuegbunam and Joseph Bradford, from talking to other students about their religious faith on campus. The first time the university claimed that, according to its speech zone policies, the students could only do so after getting permission from the school and then limiting their speech to a tiny free speech zone on campus. When Uzuegbunam followed this policy, school officials then banned him from speaking entirely because someone had complained. From the Supreme Court’s March 2021 ruling [pdf]:
» Read more

Scientists claim rocket launches are going to damage ozone layer

Junk science: This week NOAA government scientists published a paper claiming that the upcoming increase in rocket launches worldwide is a threat to the ozone layer and will also — my heart be still — promote climate change!

The study found that a tenfold increase in the amount of soot injected into the stratosphere every year would after 50 years lead to an annual temperature increase in that layer of 1 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 to 2 degrees Celsius). The stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere just above the lowest troposphere. The study found that the projected warming would slow down subtropical jet streams, bands of strong wind circling the planet at the lower edge of the stratosphere that influence the African and Indian summer monsoons.

Warmer temperatures in the stratosphere would also degrade the protective ozone layer, which blocks harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun from reaching the planet’s surface.

The paper’s abstract also said this:

We show that the rocket black carbon increases stratospheric temperatures and changes the global circulation, both of which cause a reduction in the total ozone column, mainly in the northern high latitudes. Comparing the amplitude of the atmospheric response using different emission rates provides insight into stratospheric adjustment and feedback mechanisms. Our results show that the stratosphere is sensitive to relatively modest black carbon injections.

This is garbage science, and I wouldn’t bother posting a link to it if other news sources weren’t promoting it. These predictions — based on a very simple computer model — are nothing more than guesses, and are apparently designed to both attack the growing space industry as well as garner funding for more such junk science, as illustrated by this quote from the NOAA press release:

“We need to learn more about the potential impact of hydrocarbon-burning engines on the stratosphere and on the climate at the surface of the Earth,” said lead author Christopher Maloney, a CIRES research scientist working in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory. “With further research, we should be able to better understand the relative impacts of different rocket types on climate and ozone.”

For almost a half century climate scientists — many working for government agencies like NASA and NOAA — have been publishing junk papers like this, predicting climate doom in only a few decades unless we do as they say, while funneling boatloads of cash into their pockets. Almost none of those predictions have turned out to be correct.

This report is equally suspect, especially because it touts the false statistic that “launch rates have tripled in recent decades.” The number of launches has not tripled from its long-term average since Sputnik. The only way you can get manufacture that fake statistic is if you compare last year’s total (134) with the launch numbers from the early 1960s, before the space race had even begun. And while the launch numbers are likely to rise dramatically in the coming years, the numbers will still be infinitesimal compared to other industries. Going from 50-100 launches to 200-500 launches is hardly the end of the world.

It really is far past time for the press and the general public to stop listening to these fake papers.

Virgin Orbit signs deal to launch from Brazil

Capitalism in space: Virgin Orbit yesterday announced that it has signed an agreement with the Brazil Space Agency (AEB) to establish facilities and conduct launches from that nation’s long unused Alcântara spaceport.

The license is granted to Virgin Orbit Brasil Ltda. (VOBRA), a newly formed and wholly owned Brazilian subsidiary dedicated to bringing the LauncherOne air-launch rocket system to the Alcântara Launch Center (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, CLA).

The formation of the VOBRA entity for dedicated Brazilian space activities is designed to bring an important new capability to the country and economic value to the region. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, which uses a customized 747 aircraft, Cosmic Girl, as its flying and fully reusable launch pad, will conduct launches from the existing airbase at the Brazilian site, flying hundreds of miles before releasing the rocket directly above the equator — a global sweet spot — or at other optimal locations identified for each individual mission.

Being able to launch smallsats from the equator gives Virgin Orbit the ability to place those satellites in any orbit around the Earth for far less fuel, an advantage not available to spaceports at higher latitudes.

China and Rocket Lab complete successful launches

Two launches this morning herald the upcoming busy launch schedule for the last few days of June.

First China launched from its Jiuquan interior spaceport an Earth observation satellite using its Long March 4C rocket. As is usual with China, the first stage crashed on land, though no details have been provided.

Next, Rocket Lab used its Electron rocket to send NASA’s CAPSTONE cubesat lunar probe on its way to the Moon. More information here.

CAPSTONE is currently in low-Earth orbit, and it will take the spacecraft about four months to reach its targeted lunar orbit.

…CAPSTONE is attached to Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon, an interplanetary third stage that will send CAPSTONE on its way to deep space. Shortly after launch, Lunar Photon separated from Electron’s second stage. Over the next six days, Photon’s engine will periodically ignite to accelerate it beyond low-Earth orbit, where Photon will release the CubeSat on a ballistic lunar transfer trajectory to the Moon. CAPSTONE will then use its own propulsion and the Sun’s gravity to navigate the rest of the way to the Moon. The gravity-driven track will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel the CubeSat needs to get to the Moon.

Once at the Moon, the spacecraft will enter a polar orbit varying from 1000 to 43,500 miles from the surface, with its prime mission to test operations in that lunar orbit.

Not only did NASA hire a private company, Rocket Lab, to launch it, the agency also hired a private company, Terran Orbital, to build it.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

26 SpaceX
21 China
8 Russia
4 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 36 to 21 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 36 to 34.

For the rest of June, the American companies SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, and ULA all have planned launches, as well as India. If all succeed, that would put the total launches in the first half of ’22 at 74, a pace that would almost reach 150 launches by the end of the year, smashing the annual record set last year. The U.S.’s pace in turn is likely to exceed the number of launches it completed in all of ’22 in July, with the possibility it could complete 75-80 launches by the end of the year, exceeding the U.S. annual record of 70 set in 1966.

Did pieces of a Chinese upper stage land in middle of Mediterranean last week?

According to a tweet from a Twitter account that specializes in reporting on the Chinese space program, at least one piece of the upper stage from the Long March 2F rocket that launched the present Tiangon space station crew on the Shenzhou-14 crashed into the middle of Mediterranean Sea when the stage’s orbit decayed.

Most parts burned during the reentry while small debris splashed in Mediterranean Sea around E5.2° N39.1°

According to both this Twitter site as well as the Aerospace Corporation’s re-entry site, the event occurred on June 20, 2022. The latter site however says the stage burned up over the Atlantic, though it also indicated a one hour margin of error both before or after that time. If the stage thus stayed up just a bit longer, its orbit would have brought it down exactly where the former site states.

If this is so, it indicates that the Chinese either could not or made no effort to control the de-orbit, something that should be standard for any upper stage that has mass that could hit the ground.

Hat tip from reader Jay.

Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp – This is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr

An evening pause: This could be the anthem of anyone younger than 20 after their experience during the past two years. Masks and fear-mongering and lies, lies, LIES. It breaks my heart to know that these lies have robbed a whole generation of hope and faith in the greatness that is possible in all humans. And without hope or faith in doing the impossible, not even the possible will be easy.

Note too that Hedy Lamarr proved in her life that the impossible was possible.

Hat tip Wayne Devette.

A thick and syrupy flow on Mars

A thick and syrupy flow on Mars
Click for full image.

Overview map

Cool image time! The photo above, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on March 5, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists label as a “viscous flow feature,” which is another way of saying the flow was thick and syrupy.

Nor is such a flow unusual in this area of Mars. It is located in a region of chaos terrain dubbed Protonilus Mensae, which is also the central mensae region in the 2,000-mile-long strip in the northern mid-latitudes of Mars I label glacier country. The overview map above of Protonilus Mensae — covering about 500 miles in width — shows how common such flows are in this place. The black rectangles mark the locations of other cool images I have featured, as follows:

The red rectangle indicates the location of today’s cool image.

The glacial aspect of everything in this region is even more emphasized by the wider view provided by MRO’s context camera below.
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Pushback: Supreme Court rules in favor of HS football coach fired for praying

Joe Kennedy: An American once again free to pray
Joe Kennedy: An American once again free to pray,
when and where he wishes.

Bring a gun to a knife fight: In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court today ruled in favor of high school coach Joe Kennedy, who was fired by the Bremerton School District in Washington because he choose to kneel and pray quietly on the football field at the end of each game.

Joe Kennedy was a junior varsity head coach and varsity assistant coach with the Bremerton School District in Washington from 2008 to 2015. He began the practice of reciting a post-game prayer by himself, but eventually students started joining him. According to court documents, this evolved into motivational speeches that included religious themes. After an opposing coach brought it to the principal’s attention, the school district told Kennedy to stop. He did, temporarily, then notified the school that he would resume the practice.

The situation garnered media attention, and when Kennedy announced that he would go back to praying on the field, it raised security concerns. When he did pray after the game, a number of people stormed the field in support.

The school district then offered to let Kennedy pray in other locations before and after games, or for him to pray on the 50-yard line after everyone else had left the premises, but he refused, insisting that he would continue his regular practice. After continuing the prayers at two more games, the school district placed Kennedy on leave.

He eventually lost the job when the school district refused to renew his contract.

You can read the Supreme Court’s ruling here [pdf].

Initially Kennedy was holding locker room prayer sessions and postgame religious talks, actions by a public school teacher that are certainly inappropriate. However, when the district demanded these stop he did so.

Subsequently he began praying on the field, alone and silent, after games. This action did attract some students to join him, but since he did not require participation he was violating no one’s rights, nor was he acting as a government agent at that time.
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New research suggests flowing water existed intermittently on Mars from 2.5 to 3.6 billion years ago.

Based on a study of alluvial fans on Mars, river sediment thought to have been placed at the foot of mountains, scientists have concluded that liquid water could have been flowing from as 2.5 to 3.6 billion years ago.

“We’ve known for decades that Mars had rivers and lakes around 3.5 billion years ago, but in the past few years there has been a growing body of evidence that substantial amounts of liquid water continued to erode the Martian surface for hundreds of millions of years,” said Morgan, lead author on “The global distribution and morphologic characteristics of fan-shaped sedimentary landforms on Mars” that appears in Icarus. “Water-formed landforms, such as river deltas and alluvial fans, are the most unambiguous markers of past climate. So we conducted a global survey for these features and explored patterns in their distribution and morphologic properties.”

Morgan and co-authors including PSI Senior Scientist Alan Howard found that alluvial fans are found at lower elevations than the more ancient valley networks, suggesting that stable liquid water became restricted to lower, warmer regions as Mars cooled and dried.

…What is particularly interesting about the Martian fans is that many formed much later than the valley networks, which have long been considered the strongest evidence for surface water on early Mars. Valley networks largely date to around 3.6 billion years ago, but alluvial fans date to 2.5 to 3 billion years ago.

This research merely increases the fundamental geological mystery of Mars. While the surface evidence strongly tells us that liquid water once flowed on the surface, no climate model exists that satisfactorily makes that possible. The atmosphere appears to have always been too cold and thin for liquid water.

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